Global consciousness (or “field consciousness”) is the idea that when groups of people focus their minds on the same thing, they can mentally influence physical reality. The idea is often associated with Dean Radin (though there are others working on something similar to the idea independently, too), who thinks that there
ismay be (is) a “global mind” arising from the interconnections of individual minds. The idea is silly, and the evidence for it pretty shitty – primarily, proponents of the idea seek to confirm the hypothesis by collecting statistical evidence by comparing predicted random patterns from random event generators with actual measurements – if it were genuinely random, there should be no pattern: yet, say the proponents of the idea, there is. (Some discussion of why this kind of test is utterly nonsensical can be found here.)
Such “evidence” is currently being collected The Global Consciousness Project, an offshoot of PEAR, led by one of Radin’s associates, Roger D. Nelson, one of the grand old men of psi research. So far, Nelson’s studies has eluded publication in serious journals, but at least he got one – “Wishing for Good Weather” – in the somewhat questionable Journal for Scientific Exploration, where he argued that the desires for good weather among alumni, graduates, family and others at Princeton manage to keep bad weather away from their outdoor events. Suffice to say, the paper left some obvious questions unaddressed, such as questions about the poor effects of desperation in drought-affected areas around the world or, more obviously, the chance of false positives in large datasets, the absence of a clear and predefined notion of what actually constitutes an anomaly, and a striking lack of clarity concerning what sort of patterns global consciousness were supposed to cause and why. Another of Nelson’s examples: apparently the broadcasting of Princess Diana’s funeral had an effect on the Project’s random number generator (though they admitted that Mother Teresa’s funeral did not – Nelson predictably explained the difference as a function of a difference in global attention, though there are, shall we say, alternative explanations available).
Apparently, the patterns Nelson and his crew saw in the random event generator output occur in any undefined interval surrounding the significant event, often before the event, which suggests that not only is global consciousness affecting the number generator, but global precognition is affecting it, too. Absolutely marvelous, isn’t it? Falsifiability is for losers.
Prior to taking up the Global Consciousness Project, Nelson was associated with Robert Jahn’s PEAR project. Deepak Chopra is apparently a fan.
Diagnosis: Unlike many pseudoscientists, Nelson has the resources, background and apparent willingness to do real science. But what comes out is not. And due to its veneer of respectability, Nelson’s nonsense has been widely picked up by a range of New Age lunatics, woomeisters and con people as evidence somehow supporting their nonsense. As such, his work and its influence are not wholly benign.